Geologist Activity Pin

Work Sheet

Do five (5) of these:

1.        Collect five geologic specimens that have important uses.

Geologic specimens can be minerals, rocks, and other material used in construction, manufacturing, and jewelry.  Some examples are rock (crushed rock, building stone, etc.), minerals (used for jewelry, decoration, or as a source of material for computers, toothpaste, and thousands of other useful items), sand, gravel, or clay.

Collect five materials.  Record the location they were found, the date, what they are, and what they are used for.  A simple list or table can be used to catalogue the specimens.

2.        Rocks and minerals are used in metals, glass, jewelry, road-building products, and fertilizer.  Give examples of minerals used in these products.

Gemstones are minerals in their purest form.  Most of the colors are caused by traces of unusual elements in the mineral’s composition.  For example, pure quartz is colorless, and composed exclusively of silicon and oxygen (SiO2).  Traces of lithium turn quartz purple, making amethyst.

Minerals of lower purity are often used for industrial purposes.  Diamonds, for example, are used to polish gems, cut rocks, and drill for oil.

Roads are built on a bed of crushed rock, gravel, and sand.  On top is either asphalt, made of crushed rock and tar, or concrete, made of cement (made primarily from limestone), crushed rock, and sand.  The color of the paint for the lines is made from minerals.  White is often titanium dioxide, and yellow can be chromium dioxide.

3.        Make a scale of mineral hardness for objects found at home. Show how to use the scale by finding the relative hardness of three samples.

Moh’s hardness scale gives the relative hardness of 10 minerals from talc (1) to diamond (10).  Objects that can be used to make a hardness scale include a fingernail (about 2.5), a copper penny (3.5), a nail, window glass, or knife blade (5.5), and hardened glass or a good steel file (6.5).

Note:  Since 1973, pennies have been made of zinc, and only coated with copper.  A small section of copper pipe can be substituted for a hardness of 3.5

To determine the relative hardness of 2 specimens, scratch the surface of one with the other.  The one that is scratched, is softer.  Repeat this for as many specimens as desired, ordering them based on which scratches which.

4.        List some of the geologic materials used in building your home.

Foundations or slabs are made of concrete.  Concrete is made from sand, gravel, and crushed rock and cement.  Cement is made primarily from limestone, with gypsum.

Plumbing is the house’s water system.  Pipes are made from iron, copper, and PVC.  Iron comes from one of several ores, generally magnetite or hematite.  PVC is a plastic; all plastics are made from oil or natural gas.

The wiring in your house is made of copper.  Appliances are made of copper, iron, plastic, and glass.  Glass, in turn is made from quartz (clean sand) with some fluorite, and probably some lead and other trace metals.

The inside walls of your house are probably sheetrock.  Sheetrock is often called “gypsum board”, because it is made of gypsum.  Some older houses have walls of plaster.  Plaster (like plaster of Paris) is made mostly of gypsum.  And the nails or screws that hold the sheetrock up are made from iron.

These are just a few examples of the geologic materials that are used in building your house.

5.        Make a drawing that shows the cause of a volcano, a geyser, or an earthquake.


6.        Explain one way in which mountains are formed.

There are 4 primary ways mountains are built.  The most obvious, when completing requirement 5, is by volcanoes.  Volcanoes form the tallest mountain in the world, which is Mona Loa, in Hawaii.  (Although it reaches only a little over 10,000 feet above sea level, it starts about 15,000 feet below sea level.  Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world, starts over a mile above sea level.)

The mountains that reach highest are generally caused by two tectonic plates colliding.  The Himalayas, of which Mount Everest is the highest, are perhaps the best known examples of this type of mountain.  They are caused by the Indian plate colliding with the Asian plate.  Mount Everest is still growing at about 1 cm per year (about 3 feet per century).  The Appalachians are also tectonically formed, although they are old and eroded.

Some mountains, like the Front Range of the Rockies outside Denver, are formed by faulting.  Large portions of rock are forced upward to form the mountains.

Finally, some mountains are formed by erosion.  The most spectacular of these are the buttes of Monument Valley.  These were formed mostly by water and wind which removed most of the softer rocks and left the harder rocks capping the buttes and protecting the rocks under them.  Given enough time, the Grand Canyon might become a monument valley.

7.        Describe what a fossil is.  How is it used to tell the age of a formation?  Find two examples of fossils in your area.

A fossil is the remains or evidence of a once-living creature or plant.  Generally, only the “hard parts,” or bones and shells, are preserved (the “soft parts” are eaten by raptors or scavengers, or rot before burial is complete).  These remains are often replaced by calcite, quartz, or other minerals after burial.  Sometimes fossils dissolve, and leave behind a mould, or hole, which is filled by a replacing mineral.  More often, fossils dissolve and are replaced on bit at a time.  When fossils are found, they usually leave an impression in the rock where they were removed.  These moulds are called “trace fossils” because they are evidence of the fossil, but not the fossil itself.

Other trace fossils never contained remains of an animal.  For example, dinosaur footprints are trace fossils.  The dinosaur never left his foot behind, but the footprint remains.

Special conditions are required for fossils to form.  Generally, burial must be rapid so that the animal or plant remains don’t have the time to be removed by animals or erosion.  Fossils are generally not found in high-energy environments (e.g. coarse, clean sandstone) because the energy of the water removes the bones, shells, or other animal (or plant) remains.

Plants and animals lived during specific times in the past.  These times have been determined by relative and absolute dating.  Relative dating can be determined by the law of superposition.  That is, rocks underneath are older than rocks above.  Fossils found below another in one location will always be found below.  So, if fossil A is found below fossil B, and fossil B is found below fossil C, A will be found below C if they are found in the same location.  Paleontologists have determined the ages of virtually all known fossils, and can tell the ages of rocks by them.

Many fossils have been found in association with rock units, particularly volcanics, which can be dated absolutely.  The most common means of absolute dating involve radiometric dating.  In radiometric dating, the decay of radioactive elements indicate the length of time since the rock was formed.  Only a few fossils are associated closely enough with datable units for absolute dating.  Relative dating allows us to estimate (very closely) the ages of other fossils.

8.        Take a field trip to a geological site, geological laboratory, or rock show.  Discuss what you learned at your next Webelos den meeting.

Several locations are available for field trips.  Geological sites can be found in almost all communities.  Quarries, sand pits, rivers and streams, and road cuts are all examples of geological sites that can be visited by Scouts.  Remember to ask permission of the land owner before venturing onto private property.  Also, remember SAFETY FIRST when visiting geological sites.

Most universities and science museums have geological laboratories, and may allow a Scout group to visit.  Geological laboratories study the chemical and physical properties of rocks and minerals.  Most laboratories will have delicate equipment, as well as computers.  Some will contain toxic or dangerous chemicals.  Always pay attention to your guide!

Local rock clubs have shows where rocks and minerals are displayed and/or sold.  Also, many science museums have large displays of rocks and minerals.  Some museums and universities have teaching collections of minerals which they may allow Scouts to examine.

9.        While you are a Webelos Scout, earn the Cub Scout Academics belt loop for Geology.



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